12 High-Pollen Flowers Bees Will Love!

Close up of a bee collecting pollen on a purple aster flower.
My Garden Life
May 6, 2024
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For many gardeners, there’s no more welcome sight than happy bees darting in and out of a flower patch. The best way to make this happen is to plant lots of colorful, high-pollen flowers for bees to feed on.

Let’s review how bees operate and why you might want them buzzing around your plants. Then, we’ll highlight twelve pollen-rich flowers that are known to attract bees.

Why and How Bees Gather Pollen

A bee’s diet consists of two substances produced by flowering plants: pollen and nectar. Nectar provides water and carbohydrates while pollen is a bee’s protein source.

Flowering plants have a mutualistic relationship with bees and other pollinators. While feeding, pollinators transfer pollen from one flower to another. When pollen moves from one flower’s stamen (male part) to another flower’s stigma (female part), fertilization occurs. Then, the plant can make seeds.

When a honeybee or bumble bee visits a flower, it drinks nectar with its tongue and pushes pollen into its corbiculae, cavities located on the hind legs. A corbicula is like a tiny basket in which a bee gathers pollen to take back to the hive to be shared with the colony.

High-pollen flowers include cosmos-a bee is collecting pollen from a white cosmos flower.

As they feed, bees spread pollen throughout a group of flowers. By ensuring fertilization, bees protect the well-being of their food source for future generations.

The Benefits of Bees and Tips for Maintaining a Bee-Friendly Garden

Honey bees and other pollinators are an essential part of sustaining plant life on earth, including much of the global food supply. Unfortunately, North American bee populations have declined significantly in recent years, due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and parasites.

In a garden, pollination by bees and other insects is essential for producing the edible portion of many plants. For example, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelons all require insect assistance (mainly honey bees) to produce fruit. Other crops, such as cauliflower and kale, don’t need pollination to produce a harvest but do require this process in order to make seeds. (This helpful resource from Montana State University provides lists of plants that do and don’t require insect pollination.)

Bee hive boxes in an almond orchard with all the trees in flower.

Along with pollination services, bees bring color and life to a garden. They’re also a food source for some backyard birds, like tanagers and woodpeckers.

More Tips for Creating a Bee-friendly Garden

Your garden can both attract and support bees. Here are a few of the best steps to take to create a bee-friendly garden:

  • Avoid pesticides and insecticides.
  • Plant lots of native flowering plants that bloom during different seasons.
  • Provide a water source (bird bath or pond) and include landing platforms (pieces of wood).
Bees perched on stones in a shallow tray of water drinking water.
  • Reduce the size of the mowed turf grass portion of your lawn (replace with meadows, shrubs, etc.)
  • For easiest access to pollen, choose single-petaled species types over double-petaled hybrid versions.
  • Install bee houses to provide native bees a nesting site.
An attractive wooden insect house on a wooden post next to a flowering tree.
  • Along with following these bee-friendly practices, consider adding some pollen-rich flowers that are known favorites among bees. Get started with the list below.

High-Pollen Flowers for Attracting Bees to Your Garden

Some flowers are more helpful for bees than others. Native bees tend to prefer native plants, because they co-evolved for mutual benefit. Bees are also drawn to blue, purple, yellow, and white flowers.

Most importantly, it’s best to provide a variety of flowers, because needs differ among various species of bees and other pollinators. It’s also helpful to plant high-pollen flowers that bloom during different times of year, especially during late winter and early spring when food is scarce.

Close up of a bee collecting pollen from a sunflower-a high-pollen flower.

12 Exceptionally High-Pollen Flowers

Here are 12 tried and true bee favorites that are some of the highest sources of flower pollen. On that note, if you are sensitive to pollen and experience allergies, these are flowers you may want to use sparingly in your garden or in cut flower arrangements.

Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Tall stems topped by large purple flower clusters create a majestic display in late summer. The lightly fragrant, nectar-rich blooms are a magnet for an array of butterflies and bee species. The common name, Joe Pye Weed, results from the story of an 18th-century Native American medicine man in New England. It is said that Joe Pye used the leaves of this plant to make an infusion for treating fever. Makes a dependable mixed border plant. Perfectly suited to informal, naturalized settings. Especially nice in waterside gardens. Terrific plant for butterfly gardens.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

This flower is so abundant and beloved in California that it was designated the State Flower. The beautiful, finely-textured foliage is incredibly heat and drought tolerant. Flowers have the interesting habit of closing at night and on cloudy days. Ideal choice for beds, borders, and cutting gardens. Wonderful for rock gardens and containers. Cut flowers are long-lasting in fresh bouquets.
Sweet Lavender (Lavandula heterophylla)

Sweet Lavender (Lavandula heterophylla)

Sweet lavender is taller, more vigorous and has greener foliage than that of French lavender. The fragrance is different as well, although no less powerful. Freshly cut flowers make a nice addition to bouquets, while dried flowers are nice for adding to “everlasting” arrangements. Despite its name, sweet lavender should not be used for cooking. Outstanding for planting near walkways, decks and patios where scent can be enjoyed.
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)

Black-eyed Susan is a hardy North American native plant capable of thriving in just about any sunny location. The cheerful yellow flowers are excellent for cut arrangements. Bees and butterflies flock to the blooms and birds enjoy the seed heads after the flowers fade. Old blooms may also be removed to encourage more flowers. A great choice for naturalized areas.
Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Goldenrod is a fast spreading, upright perennial perfect for providing a casual, quick-filling patch of color. Clusters of many tiny flowers form golden cones of bloom above fine-leaved stems. Perfectly suited to informal, naturalized settings. Excellent for use in difficult spots where nothing else can survive. Provides long lasting cut flowers.
Dahlia (Dahlia hybrid)

Dahlia (Dahlia hybrid)

Native to the mountains of Central America, Dahlias are a garden favorite throughout the world. The huge selection of varieties provides for a multitude of flower forms and colors to choose from. Dahlia tubers can be dug and stored for reuse, but careful attention to timing, moisture and potential fungal infection is needed. Ideal choice for beds, borders, and cutting gardens. Perfect for all kinds of containers. Cut flowers are long-lasting in fresh bouquets.
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Saucer-like blooms stand out against a backdrop of fine, airy leaves. Spanish missionaries gave it the name cosmos. Legend has it that the missionaries saw the symmetry of the petals as a symbol of the divinely ordered universe, the meaning of “cosmos” in Greek. Ideal choice for beds, borders, and cutting gardens. Cosmos look striking as a backing plant in mixed borders or filling out mixed plantings. Cut flowers are long-lasting in fresh bouquets.
Calendula, English Marigold, Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula, English Marigold, Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Masses of sunny yellow or orange blooms are produced well into autumn. Calendula is an excellent backup for your garden favorites that have shorter bloom times. Calendula often self-seeds, providing you with bonus plants that are easily enjoyed, or easily removed for sharing. An ideal choice for beds, borders, and cutting gardens. Perfect for all kinds of containers. Cut flowers are long-lasting in fresh bouquets.
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

This North American native is perfect for bringing long lasting color to the late season garden. Sprays of colorful daisy like blooms flower prolifically on strong stems and can be left to dry in the garden for winter interest. Wonderful for mixed borders and rock gardens. Perfect for all kinds of containers. Cut flowers are long-lasting in fresh bouquets.
Penstemon, Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

Penstemon, Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

A vigorous Penstemon with tubular, bell-like blooms on a multitude of sturdy stems. Very tolerant of heat and humidity. Varieties of this easy-care species often have reddish to purple stems and foliage. The flowers are loved by hummingbirds! Excellent for borders, rock gardens, or mass plantings. Perfectly suited to informal, naturalized settings. Terrific plant for hummingbird gardens.
Common Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Common Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple coneflower is a prairie native that makes a tough, self-reliant garden plant. The flowers attracts butterflies to the garden and if you don’t deadhead the blooms, birds will visit to feed on the seeds. Cut flowers are long-lasting in fresh bouquets. Perfectly suited to informal, naturalized settings.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow brings soft texture and long lasting color to the perennial garden with a minimal care. The Achillea millefolium species includes many of the deep red, pink, and orange hued varieties. Regardless of color they all attract butterflies and admiring eyes. An ideal choice for beds, borders, and cutting gardens.

Providing a Safe Haven for Pollinators

A pollinator-friendly garden may include some high-pollen flowers that bees love, along with some that are more likely to attract butterflies. Bees and butterflies visit many of the same plants, but they have differing needs and preferences. For example, bees require both pollen and nectar. Butterflies, meanwhile, only consume nectar but also require leaves to munch on during the caterpillar phase. Get started on your colorful, eco-friendly butterfly garden with this beginner’s guide to choosing plants that attract and support butterflies

Close up of a peacock butterfly on a purple coneflower.

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